Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Early 2008 update....


It has been nearly 5 months since our last post and we have since passed our one year anniversary marking the in-country portion of our adoption journey.

I am happy to say that the boys have endured their first New England winter and even though it was a long one they came through it with nothing more than a case of cabin fever!! The winter season brought a lot of snow to Vermont. We had several feet (yes feet) of snow on the ground come early April. The boys enjoyed several outdoor activities including snowmobiling, sledding and simply plodding around in the white stuff.

The boys were baptized into the Protestant faith in mid-January. They were the only children/people baptized that day so the pastor made it a very personalized service on their behalf. Lucas nearly brought the congregation to tears (of laughter) after saying a very pronounced “AMEN” upon completion of a prayer for them. It was hilarious.

It has been a long five months for several reasons. Mommy dealt with a herniated disc in her lower back. Her problems began around Christmas-time and worsened throughout January and February. She finally got in front of the “right” doctor after an MRI was called for. The image displayed a huge herniation of the L5-S1 disk. This was successfully operated on in mid-April and we are all happy that Mommy is on the mend.

Daddy dealt with his own surgery albeit on a lesser scale. Early April brought an appointment with the oral surgeon for wisdom teeth extraction. The boys made a big deal about Daddy’s teeth which he brought home after the procedure. Lucas kept looking in my mouth and saying – “tooth, boo-boo – why?” He is fixated on boo-boos these days – he gets a very concerned look whenever he sees a boo-boo on Mommy or Daddy.

The boys escaped the winter sickness months with thankfully a little more than a common cold to show for it. They avoided a lot of the bugs that ran ram shod through their pre-school.

The boys have been progressing with their speech, motor skills and are beginning to grow into little boys. They are really losing their toddler look now – they have grown at least a couple inches since we brought them home and are now starting to catch up to their age group.

Their teachers have recognized growth in all of these areas as well. Andrea and I are very happy with the Montessori School – there is no doubt that it has been very beneficial for them this past year. Lucas’ teacher (Kristen) is a very close friend of ours and she has been wonderful with him. It has been comforting for us to know that we are not dropping our kids off at a day care that simply plops the kids in front of a TV. Brady and Lucas have really flourished in the Montessori environment this past year.

We are gearing up for summer now. The boys love being outside so much so that Andrea and I cringe every time we hear of a rainy day forecast. The boys love to ride their bikes, push their wheelbarrows, kick the soccer balls around and most of all ride on Daddy’s tractor. They are avid helpers and love to assist Mommy by weeding and watering her flower gardens. Now Daddy is waiting for them to grow up a little bit so he can have some help cutting, splitting and stacking firewood!!

The second Sunday of May brought Mother’s Day. The boys and Daddy treated Mommy very well! She had several special gifts, a cake and nice dinner as well. They were a little confused by the celebration in that they were thinking it was Mommy’s birthday again – we think the cake might have thrown them off a bit!!

Brady and Lucas are going to spend the summer at home with Mommy. As luck would have it Andrea is going to stay home with them while she fully recoups her back. She is actively working on agendas and curriculums – we are contemplating a day camp for them – perhaps gymnastics or soccer – in addition to day trips to friend’s who have pools ponds and other neat stuff. Daddy is going to take a week off around the 4th of July to spend with the family – with the price of gas (and everything else for that matter) we are going to lay low by pitching a tent in our woods and camping out. If this ‘test’ run works out then we might try camping away either later this summer or next year for sure.

That is about it for now – we’ll check back in a little later this summer. Take care.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

First Christmas

Hello Everyone -

Well - we just celebrated our first Christmas with the boys. Their faces expressed it all as we went into the family room together yesterday. They were in absolute awe of the gifts that were left under the Christmas tree. They knew Santa was coming but in all reality they had no idea what to expect.

Yes, the Christmas season has been fun for all! From frantically looking for Scooter (their Elf on the Shelf) every morning, to cutting Christmas trees, to advent calendars, to candlelight Church services. to baking cookies with Mommy - it has been quite a ride for the boys as well as Mom and Dad. So many 'firsts' crammed into such a short timeframe!

Anyway, it has been a while since the last post. I doubt that many people are still looking at this blog but we know of some. Several expectant adoptive families have read the blog and left comments and questions which is nice. Andrea tries to respond as quickly as possible so she can provide these families with the guidance and experience that only those that have been through it can offer. We know how invaluable this advice was for us leading up to our trip to Ukraine.

More on the boys now...

Brady and Lucas are now on their two week Christmas vacation from Montessori school. To say that they are beloved at school would probably be an understatement. According to Kristen (Lucas' teacher) Lucas' name came up in 12 of her 16 parent/teacher conferences. In each of those instances the parents wanted to know who this "Lucas" boy was that their kids talked about all the time.

Brady loves school and his teachers. He is picking up English at an amazing pace. There is defintely truth to the addage that kids are sponges during their toddler years. He has some really cute habits right now - every morning without fail he says to me - "Hi Daddy, good morning Daddy". Another cute one is when someone asks him a question that he is not sure how to answer he will say "ummm, hmmm" before responding. Obviously blogging this does not do it justice as his facial expressions are what really makes this adorable.

Besides Christmas some other notable firsts for the boys have been - riding a pony, going to the fair, holding Daddy's "little" buck, dressing up for Halloween, Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family (all 22 of us), snowmobiling, playing in the snow and so many others!! Each new event brings a sense of wonder to them and smiles to us.

Well that is it for now...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

The Donahues.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pics and more...

Hi All,

It is August 27th and we are three days away from the boy's third birthday!! They actually begin pre-school today at the Montessori School in East Montpelier. Motessori are going to split the boys into separate classrooms at least to start. If that proves problematic we'll speak with their teachers about putting them in the same class but everyone is in agreement that we should at least try.

It has been a busy 2 months since we have been home. The boys have had numerous doctors appointments. Lucas had successful hernia surgery a couple weeks ago - you wouldn't even know that he had it in fact he was back to 100% within three or four days post-op. Brady and Lucas are also meeting with speech therapists and occupational therapists in an effort to bring them up to where they should be developmentally.

Brady is talking up a storm when Momma and Daddy are around but he tends to shut his speech down with others. He is still shy and less outgoing than Lucas. Both of the boys are saying "nooooooooo" to everything. A habit that drives us all nuts particularly Momma.

We finally found a tv program that can keep their attention for more than 3 minutes. There is a monster truck cartoon on Discovery Kids that they love. 15 minutes is still the maximum amount of time that they can sit still but that is ok - we don't care to make tv junkies out of them anyway.

The boys are growing steadily - Brady has to be a solid 30+ lbs now and Lucas is getting taller and putting on some weight. They have both probably put on 4-5 pounds since arriving home. This is not surprising particularly by the way they eat. They have excellent appetites - they will typically eat everything on their plate and then some of ours!! Fav foods include dill pickles, cucumbers w/vinegar, chix nuggets, ham sandwiches and much more. We are trying to keep their diet diverse so that they do not get into the Mac&Cheese only routine like so many other kids.

Brady saw his first live buck the other day. Him and I were out walking on our property and there was one standing on the trail. I had to point him out but once he saw him he was fixated - he said "wowwwwwwwwwww" when the little 4 pointer jumped into the brush and went on his way.

I am attaching a couple new pics today - we have many others that I plan to get on the site in the future. Thank God for digital cameras otherwise we would be going broke with film processing!!

Bye for now - Chris, Andrea, Brady and Lucas

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Some pics of the boys


A few pics of the boys since we have been home. They are adjusting and adapting really well. They are extremely happy albeit a bit mischievous at times. Brady is picking up and speaking more and more English every day. Lucas is understanding more and more every day but not speaking much. We are sure that will come with time.
That is it for now...

Friday, July 6, 2007

One journey ends as a greater one begins...

Hi Everyone,
Sorry the posts stopped for a while but as most of you know by now we are finally home with our two little boys in tow. The last days in Ukraine were as hectic as we expected but in the end all of the running around, lack of sleep and food paid off as we boarded our plane on June 27th and were homeward bound.

I think our last post stated that Monday June 25th would be the determining factor whether we would make it home on schedule or be forced to spend an extra week in Kiev. It all hinged on getting to the US Embassy on Tuesday so we could get the boy’s visas before it closed for a Ukrainian public holiday on Thursday and Friday.

The day started promptly at 8AM as our driver, Vlad, picked us up along with Olga of course. We were off to the Dniprodzerzhinsk courthouse to pick up the court decree which under Ukrainian law made the adoption complete and thus made us the parents of Master’s Lucas and Brady. The court decree was also supposed to be the quickest part of our day as we all thought it would take no more than 15 minutes to pick it up and be on our way. We should have known better I guess particularly since nothing to this point of our trip had been quick or easy. 2.5 hours later Olga walked out to find Andrea and I deflated. At this point we assumed there would be no way that we would get everything else finished so we could get to Kiev on Tuesday. Olga, in her infinite wisdom and with her unflappable confidence said “I will not give up hope until there is no hope left”. And with this statement we were off and running to the registrar’s office to get the boy’s birth certificates changed.

Changing the birth certificates is needed to show us as the parents as well as to formally change their names to Lucas and Brady. We ran into the Italian and Spanish families (and their translators) there just as we did at the courthouse and several other venues throughout the remainder of the day. The other translators would play a crucial role for us later on Monday – a role that would aid us in getting everything completed.

It is now 11:30AM and we leave the registrar’s office to head for a private notary (ruh-roh). The registrar told Olga that she needed to come back after 1PM to pick up the completed birth certificates. The notary had to notarize a passport application which everyone knows is just one more convoluted and unnecessary step to the process. Luckily the notary was fairly quick this time around. We were there for about an hour which in comparison to our earlier experience was a cake-walk. From the notary’s office we headed to the orphanage to finish some business with the director. We needed to sign some handwritten paperwork stating that we were picking up the boys on such and such date at such and such time. To no one’s surprise the orphanage was not ready with their paperwork so we would have to go back there later in the day.

It is 1PM now as we head back to the registrar’s office. Once again the paperwork was not quite ready but we were off to Dnipropetrovsk shortly after 1:30 with the new birth certificates in hand. Dnipropetrovsk is one of the four largest cities in Ukraine and we had to go to a “hall of records” type location to get the new birth certificates certified as legal and original. Can you say red tape?? Anyway this is where the trip gets interesting and the pucker factor increases for us. Vlad was off on a high-speed trek for Dnipropetrovsk. Earlier Olga spoke with a woman in the office down there who said “if we cannot make it there by 2PM then come on Tuesday”. This was not an option for us if we wanted to get home on Wednesday therefore we were faced with going 40 miles in 20 minutes – YIKES! The funny thing is we almost made it on time even though we were randomly stopped by the police along the way. We pulled into the office around 2:10 and I don’t think Olga, Andrea or I would have been surprised if they turned us away but thankfully that did not happen. While we sat and waited for a stamp on the birth certificates (yes JUST a STAMP) we found out that Olga had worked out an arrangement with the Italian’s translator to get the boy’s passports processing. Without this help we wouldn’t have made it especially since the woman in Dnipropetrovsk was in no hurry to provide us with the service we needed. 1.5 hours later we departed with our stamp and headed back to Dniprodzerzhinsk doing about oh a buck-ten (MPH not KPH)!!

We are now back at the orphanage to sign the paperwork that allows us to take the boys home with us. This took only a few minutes as they had all day to get everything together. Once we signed their medical “file” we were told by the doctor that they would be kept on file for 75 years… The doctor wished us well and she had a tear in her eye as she sent us on our way. Andrea also had some tears at this point as it was obvious this was all becoming very real now.

With a few minutes to catch our breath we decided to stop and see the boys. Needless to say they were happy to see us and very upset when we had to leave 5 minutes later. We had a couple more stops to go with the first being to pick up their passports. When we got to the passport office everything was ready for us, they just needed our signatures – finally a step in the process that was not laborious or unnecessarily delayed.

Next stop was the train station to see if there was availability on the Kiev Express night train for the 5 of us. We were in luck- they had first class sleeping compartments available and we purchased tickets for 2 compartments on the 11:20PM train.

We then headed back to the orphanage thinking we would drop off the clothes for the boys (remember they leave with nothing), grab some dinner, and then go back to pick up the boys. This was not to be. Olga brought in the clothes because we didn’t want to upset the boys again by leaving. 10 minutes later as we’re sitting in the car we see Olga and the boys with 1 of their caregivers walking towards the car. They are ready to go with us NOW!! The moment we had been waiting for was upon us - we take the boys, say our good-bye’s to the caregiver and head back to the apartment. Once back we finish packing and play with Brady & Lucas – they are absolutely wired. Olga still had about 4 hours worth of translating to do as the US Embassy required most of our documents in English rather than Russian – at least that is what we thought was the case.
Around 11PM we take an old, old taxi to the train station. The driver cannot close the trunk so we were worried that some of our luggage would end up on the street during the 8 minute drive but it didn’t. Olga told us once the train stops we’ll only have 2-minutes to get onboard. Imagine trying to find your car among about 30 and then hustling 2 children in strollers and 6 stout bags onto it before it takes off- FUN!! Anyway the boys were quite content to sit in their strollers and absorb everything around them. The train arrived on time and, everything and everyone made it on and we’re off to Kiev. The boys slept all the way while Mom and Dad and Olga did not!!

We were met at the Kiev train station by Sasha who’d drive us around on Tuesday. First stop was Valentina’s office to make copies of paperwork for the Embassy. Next stop was an English speaking doctor to perform physicals on the boy’s (required by the US Embassy). All is well, the doctor is quite chatty and smitten with the boys, Olga tries to hurry her along so we have time to make it to the Embassy but it still takes 2 hours.

With handwritten physicals in hand we head to the Embassy but first we need to have their pictures taken for their visas. Olga is not allowed in with us, but supplies us with all the necessary paperwork we will need. We can only take in the boys, our passports and cash- nothing else is allowed through the doors. Even with reams of documents in hand we still need to fill out about 4 different immigration forms in duplicate (1 set per child). All in all we were at the Embassy for about an hour. Everyone there was very helpful and quite taken with the boys. We were told that their visas would be ready that day after 4pm but we decided to pick them up on Wednesday morning just before we FLY HOME!!!!

Wednesday- June 27th - The day finally arrives for us to leave and not a moment to soon. We pack up, take the boys for a walk around Kiev, have breakfast at McD’s (only to discover the boys love vanilla milkshakes and French fries - duh), pick up their visas and wait for our ride to the airport.

At 1pm we were off to the airport and we arrived about an hour later – traffic was snarled in Kiev as usual so we had one last wild ride in the backseat of a Ukrainian vehicle. Mind you they do not use seat belts or car seats in this country so the boys were in our arms the whole way. BA just started checking in and the line was a mile long. After a quick hug and good-bye to our new lifelong friend Olga we head for the BA ticket line to get our boarding passes. We called on the 26th to get seat assignments so we should have been all set, but per the traveling norm something got screwed up and our assigned seats were given away to someone else. Luckily we still had seats but we ended up in the back of the plane instead of the front.

We have to say the boys are excellent travelers!! We don’t care to do this type of trip with them again any time soon, but considering we were going for about 17 hours straight on either a plane or stuck in an airport I have to admit they were phenomenally well-behaved.

We arrived in London and got through security much quicker than on our way to Kiev. This was a relief as the boys would not have been happy with a 1 ½ hour wait in a security line. Problems and delays were coming our way however as a mere 10 minutes before we were due to land at JFK, the airport was shut down due to severe weather. The pilot came on and said we are diverted to Boston where we would subsequently sit on the tarmac for 2 ½ hours. At about 1AM (Thursday) we were refueled and cleared to fly back to JFK. We arrived there around 2:30AM, cleared customs and immigration with no problem, picked up all of our luggage and strollers and headed out to see if we had a ride to CT. Thank GOD Gramma and Grampa Nolan waited it out and were there to greet us all!! We finally arrived at their house around 5:30AM Thursday morning. Everyone but the boys was exhausted but equally excited to finally be back in the good old US of A!!

The last leg of the trip brings us home to 1215 Falls Bridge Road!! We arrived around 1:30PM on Friday. Mom (Grammy) Donahue, my sister Jennifer and her family were all waiting for us. It was an emotional time for all as we were finally home. They had the house decorated with ‘WELCOME HOME’ banners and our house was stocked with food and goodies left by family and friends.

So here we are now – it is July 5th 2007 and the boys are doing so amazingly well that in many aspects it seems like they were born to us. The common and well-documented problems associated with adopted children simply have not shown up with Brady and Lucas – I am referring to attachment issues in particular. They are very happy boys – they crave our attention and we love giving it to them. Don’t get me wrong they have some bad ‘orphanage’ habits but what 3 year old doesn’t?!?!

So how can one sum up an experience like this – well it cannot be easily done. We have so many lingering thoughts, memories and emotions regarding the trip. In some ways it was the longest 40 days of our life and in other ways the time simply flew by. This was a life changing event for us and I mean that in many ways. On the surface bringing twin 3 year old boys into your life changes everything (to say the least!) but it goes much deeper than that.

First and foremost we have realized just how fortunate we are. We were born into families who raised us in a loving home. As soon as you step foot into these orphanages you quickly recognize just how many children have nothing – children who above all else need a family to nurture and love them. It is so sad to see these kids many of whom will never have a chance at a decent life. They will live out there childhood going from one orphanage to another until they are thrust out on their own at the age of 18.

As I said above this entire event has made us realize how Blessed we are to have the support of our wonderful family and friends. We thank each of you for your love, support and encouraging words. You got us through this - none of it would have been achievable without you.

Take care and God Bless.

Love Chris, Andrea, Lucas and Brady.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Back from Crimea


We are back and in one piece (explain later)!! Yalta is a beautiful area/city and we along with Olga enjoyed ourselves. More on the trip a bit later.

Today is Saturday and we went back to the O to see the boys for the first time since Monday afternoon. We didn't know what type of reception we would receive but to say the boys were giddy to see us would be an understatement!! They were in a "playpen" with all of their classmates and when they caught sight of us they both started jumping up and down and calling out "Momma & Pappa". It was cute and encouraging for sure. We wish we had the video camera to catch their excitement but it will just have to remain fresh in our memories.

After the morning visit we stopped by the toy store and picked up the strollers we have been eyeing for the past four weeks. These will help us to get around the airports and Kiev as well. We are going to be running around like mad on Monday and Tuesday anyway in hopes of still getting everything done so we can leave this week. We are skeptical but hopeful. We also have gotten the boys a couple of outfits to wear home. We still need shoes and another shirt or two but we are pretty close to being ready - at least we think!!!! :-)

As for Monday here is what needs to "break" just right for us. Monday at 8:30 we go to court to pick up the decree - this is about the only easy thing for Monday. We should have it in hand and be out the door in minutes. After this we head to the registrars office to get their birth certificates re-written essentially to show us as the parents. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours. Olga has been in contact with the woman at that office and as usual she has been greasing the wheels beforehand. This part of the process should go off without a hitch the question is how long will it take. The next step is heading to a notary office to get the petition for the passport notarized. We tried to get this done today but were unsuccessful. This is the wildcard - flashback to our first week here and how we described our first "notary" experience - not pretty. Once this is done we are off to the passport office; they are expecting us due to Olga's prep work once again. If we are able to get this done quickly (which we have been told is possible) we are off to Dnipropetrovsk (40 minute drive) to get the birth certificates certified - confused yet?? case scenario. All of this gets done by 5PM after which we run back to pack our gear, pick up the boys from the Orphanage (sure to be an emotional time for you know who!!) and jump a night train to Kiev. We are exhausted just thinking about this but we are prepared to do what needs to be done so we can head home. Tuesday morning would be spent at the US Embassy and getting physicals for the boys - required by the USA. IF all of this was to get completed we should have the boy's visas Wednesday morning and we could theoretically make our original flight on the 27th. As you can see a lot of "if's" and a lot of things that need to go perfectly. We are still preparing ourselves to fly out Monday July 2nd. Stay tuned.

Ok back to our excursion to Yalta. Andrea and I are not really world travelers so keep this in mind as we pass along a few thoughts on travelling within Ukraine.

The first thought that comes to mind is how insanely dangerous their roads and drivers are. When I think back to my teen years I can remember some of the dangerous and utterly stupid things we did on the road. That is everyday travel here and then some. We drove some 300 miles (give or take) to Yalta and during this stretch of road we saw at least 30 to 40 memorials of where people died. It is probably safe to assume that is just a fraction of the actual number people that have perished - unbelievable. Our driver gave us fits a couple times - we had a couple near head on collisions with semis and he was constantly taking corners at 80+. Mind you these are two lane roads that are falling apart. I was amazed that the car held together on some of the bumps we hit. It was a BMW 5 series - probably anything less of a car and it wouldn't have held together. Anyway - you get the point. We would highly recommend taking trains and or planes rather than driving in this country.

Yalta is a beautiful hillside city on the edge of the Black Sea. The water was green much like you would see in the Caribbean. It is a growing city - several new hotels and high-rise apartment buildings are being constructed. I have never been to anyplace like it but if I were to compare it to a place that I have seen pictures of it would be the Greek Isles.

We took a boat tour and an aerial tram tour on separate days. The boat tour was nice as it took us along the coast line of the peninsula. The tram ride itself was great but the tour was a waste of time and money. The tram rose up from almost the sea shore to the top of the highest peak on Crimea (some 1400 meters). It was amazing how high above the ground the tram was on the ascent.

The beaches were very rocky - no sand whatsoever. The attire was interesting - shall we say very European. I think I was the only man not wearing a Speedo. The theme here is less is more - which is as we expected it would be.

Olga told us to expect poor service in Yalta and in fact they (the resorts and businesses themselves) publicly recognize that very fact. Everyone was right - the restaurant service was absolutely dreadful. We did have a very nice apartment. The owner was a very nice woman and she was very intent on ensuring our satisfaction. Generally speaking we have met some very wonderful people during our travels.

That is it for now - we will blog on Monday if we have a chance to let everyone know where ended up. Monday is the determining factor. We'll keep you all posted!!


Monday, June 18, 2007

Heading out of town for a few days...

Hi Everyone,

Andrea and I are headed to the Crimean Peninsula with Olga for a few days of R&R before the last big push comes prior to flying out. We are going to a town called Yalta which is the most southern point of Ukraine.

Andrea and the boys have both been sick over the past week or so. The boys never really got over their colds from two weeks ago and therefore they became manifested in their chest. Lucas especially was hit hard. On Saturday he could barely stand - during both the morning and afternoon visit he fell asleep in our arms and would not eat anything. He was in bad shape. We called Olga and asked her to call the O's doctor to check up on him. The doctors do not seem to work on weekends but she called in a nurse to do the exam. We were summoned to go to the pharmacy twice where we picked up at least a half dozen medications.

Andrea has had a sore throat and stiff neck the past couple days and it was so bad this morning we made yet another trip to the pharmacy to pick up meds for her!!

Anyway...hopefully everyone is on the mend and we will all be in tip top shape for the flight home. Speaking of coming home - the Canadian's called us today and said that they breezed through the process of getting their court decree, birth certificate and passport for Anton. They will head to Kyiv tomorrow morning to wrap up their business at the Canadian embassy. If we were to run into the same stroke of luck next Monday we could possibly be able to fly out of here next Thursday at the earliest. That would be fantastic!!!! We'll see...

We will probably be gone through Friday - more than likely we will not be checking email or blogging until we get back in Dniprodzerzhinsk. So that is it for now - take care and we'll be seeing you all soon!!!